I Want Your Job: Odds Compiler

'You need to be a reality TV nut and have good intuition'
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The Independent Online

Helen Jacob, 28, is the country's only female odds compiler. As entertainment manager for Sky Bet, an online, telephone and interactive digital television betting service, she works out the betting odds for non-sporting events such as Big Brother and the Oscars.

What does your job actually involve?

I work out the odds on non-sporting events: everything from whether Britney Spears will get divorced to who will win the Turner Prize. I'm usually in the office from 9am to 6pm, although on Fridays I stay late to cover the Big Brother evictions. Every morning, I read the newspapers - in my job it's very important to keep up with current affairs - and I'll have Sky News or Big Brother on in the background. I check all the bets placed overnight to monitor how much money we've taken and see if the odds need to be altered accordingly. I've always got my computer screen up, showing every profit and loss that we stand to make. I'm constantly reacting to what's going on, and adjusting odds - for example, if someone has had a fight on Big Brother, the odds on them winning may increase.

How did you get into becoming an odds compiler?

It was a complete career change for me. After doing languages at university, I trained to be an accountant, but soon realised it wasn't my bag. I saw an advert for a "reality TV nut"- someone with a passion for popular culture and good numeracy and communication skills. It seemed too good to be true when I got the job.

What skills would someone need to do your job well?

It's handy to have good numerical skills for working out odds and percentages. My job doesn't require as much analysis of statistical information as our racing and football odds compilers need to do, but it is important to be able to do spreadsheets.

I spend a lot of time researching markets, so you need good research skills and an eye for seeing what would make an attractive bet. You also need sound judgement and courage in your convictions in this job. There's a lot of money riding on your decisions, and you have to make them rapidly as the odds change minute by minute. A lot of the skill is intuition and experience.

What advice would you give to someone interested in a career in compiling odds?

If you're compiling odds on sporting events, you need to have an in-depth knowledge of sport, and really know your stuff. A lot of my colleagues would agree that they're pretty obsessed. The job involves working in the evenings, bank holidays and weekends, so you have to be prepared to work unsocial hours. It's hard to switch off and go on holiday, as you miss out on what's happening - so prepare for a lot of arguments with your spouse!

What's best about it?

It's a brilliant feeling when your instincts have been right and you win something, but it's frustrating when you lose. There's so much riding on your judgement and luck; it's really exciting. Although if I'm working out the odds for the Eurovision Song Contest, I have to listen to a lot of silly songs - that can be torture!

What's the salary and career path like?

The salary is competitive and there are opportunities for bonuses. You might start as a junior odds compiler, and work up to being a senior odds compiler or managing a department. We work at the core of the business, because we're constantly monitoring profits and losses, so we can easily move into other areas of the company.

For more information, go to www.skybet.com. People 1st, the Sector Skills Council for hospitality, leisure and tourism, at www.people1st.co.uk; the Association of British Bookmakers, at www.abb.uk.com; and the Racing Post at www.racingpost.co.uk, have more information on betting industry careers.

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